After the exit of the renowned judges of Masterchef Australia, this is the first time that we are experiencing the much-loved cooking reality show without its original lead trio. And one week in, the ride has been a little topsy-turvy. As we shared last week, despite the absence of the original judges, Season 12 of the show garnered record ratings for its premiere episode. The first week also saw Gordon Ramsay as the guest judge along with the new trio – Andy Allen, Jock Zonfrillo and Melissa Leong. But as much as we love the contestants this time, it’s a little hard to love the show.
In the first week, we saw 24 contestants from the past seasons competing in a team challenge, a round-robin relay challenge and the lucky ones also got a chance to cook-off against Gordon. Firstly, let’s address the fact that Gordon in Masterchef AU is a different person when compared to Gordon in Masterchef US or Hell’s Kitchen. Here, we saw the softer side of the celebrity chef who is known for his hot temper and foul mouth. The vibe of Masterchef AU has always been cozy and warm, and this lesser-seen demeanour of Ramsay was lovely to watch here.
Next, let’s discuss the new judges. Andy Allen is an ex-Masterchef winner, so there’s a certain soft corner that regular viewers have for him. As far as Jock Zonfrillo and Melissa Leong are concerned, the jury is still out. There are moments when Melissa comes across as more enthusiastic than the contestants who are doing the actual cooking and her statements doubting the contestants’ abilities don’t settle too well here. Jock Zonfrillo is yet to have a strong impact on the show.
We have to address the issue of favouritism on this season. Even though there aren’t many traces of bias yet, it is obvious that as this season goes on, the audience will be left wondering if a contestant got by because of his skills or his past relationship with a judge. Ben Milbourne (Season 4) is a contestant this time with Andy (Season 4 winner) as a judge. Ben and Andy were the best of friends during their season in 2012, and after the show ended, they did some other shows together. Their friendship is obvious and was addressed in the opening episode, but for those who have followed Andy and Ben for years, this one could get tricky.
Not just Andy and Ben, Laura (Season 6), who was a runner-up during her season, has worked extensively with Jock Zonfrillo at his restaurant. During the first episode, the two acknowledged their working relationship as Laura spoke about everything she had learned from her ex-boss and how he had impacted her life.
With Gordon Ramsay gone in Week 2, it is time for the three new judges to shine as they try to put up a show that’s just as warm and lovely as the earlier seasons. It’s a little too soon to not miss Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris and Matt Preston while viewing Masterchef Australia but let’s wait and watch what this season has in store for us.
Masterchef Australia: Back to Win is streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.